The real fun happened before Friday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup champion’s banquet

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 04: Host Marty Smith, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards react during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series After the Lap show at The Pearl concert theater at the Palms Casino Resorton December 4, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS, NV – DECEMBER 04: Host Marty Smith, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards react during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series After the Lap show at The Pearl concert theater at the Palms Casino Resorton December 4, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)

The NASCAR Sprint Cup series got formal Friday night. Drivers, crew chiefs and crewmembers put on formal attire and the top 16 drivers along with their wives or significant others, walked a red carpet to a formal dinner that concluded with speeches reflecting on the year just past.  The spotlight was on 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick who,  as champions have done in years past, thanked everyone who helped him win his first title. All in all the entire Friday night finale to the annual Champions week is a predicable affair and about as exciting as waiting out the rain at Daytona this past July.

The real fun, at least the fun that the public can see, always occurs on the night prior to the banquet. The top drivers take their high powered stock cars for a little fun down the Las Vegas Strip. Loud, smoky burnouts delight fans and give drivers a chance to show their stuff off the track.  The Victory Lap as it is called is followed by an event called “After the Lap” and for many is a chance to see drivers as they “let their hair down” in a relaxed ,oftentimes no holds barred, session of “interviews”.  In the past the Thursday night affair has had four time champion Jeff Gordon breakdancing, Denny Hamlin showing the world how to “Dougie” and TV personality Rutledge Wood challenging three-time champion Tony Stewart to a push-up contest.  While there were no feats of physical prowess this year, Thursday night’s “After the Lap” provided some very humorous moments that will be talked about until the green flag falls on the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season at Daytona in just a few short months.

The first highlight came from Gordon who talked about a conversation he was having with the newly signed driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2007. Gordon said he was talking with Earnhardt on the phone while driving when he suddenly saw police lights behind him just after he had congratulated NASCAR’s most popular driver for signing with Hendrick Motorsports. MORE>>>

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